Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz will announce her candidacy for governor on Thursday June 4th, the Journal Gazette and other outlets have reported. If Ritz, a Democrat, wins her party’s nomination, it could put years of high-profile and intense political disputes over education in an even brighter spotlight.
Ritz won a surprising victory for state K-12 chief in 2012. Since then, she’s repeatedly clashed with members of the state school board, Republicans lawmakers who control the state legislature, as well as Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican who was also elected in 2012.
I visited the state last year to highlight the political and policy fights that have unfolded in the Hoosier State since the 2012 election. The list of such fights has grown since my 2014 trip there. Ritz and Pence clashed over the length of the state English/language arts and math assessments this spring, and Pence also signed a bill this year to have the state school board pick its chairperson beginning in 2017, rather than the current requirement for the state chief automatically to serve as the chairperson.
Highlights, or lowlights if you prefer, of Ritz’s tenure include:
• Her move to adjourn a state board meeting in 2013 even though other board members insisted that the meeting was not over;
• Pence’s creation of a state education agency the same year, a move that Ritz said was specifically designed to undermine her power (Pence recently dissolved that agency);
• Fights between Ritz and the state board over Indiana’s waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
During Ritz’s and Pence’s concurrent terms in office, the state in 2014 also became the first to formally adopt new standards to replace the Common Core State Standards. That process, at least as far as the relationship between the two is concerned, went relatively smoothly.
The 2012 Democratic candidate for governor, John Gregg, as well as Democratic state Sen. Karen Tallian, are also running, so Ritz is not guaranteed to get the face-off with Pence that she reportedly wants. Pence was rumored to be a possible 2016 presidential candidate, but he has announced his intention to run for a second term as Indiana governor.
Photo: Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, celebrates defeating Indiana’s Republican state schools chief, Tony Bennett, in the 2012 superintendent’s race. A teacher, she drew strong union support. Michael Conroy/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.